Richard Donald Crenna was born in Los Angeles, California, into a modest-income family, the only child of Edith J. (Pollette) and Domenick Anthony Crenna, a pharmacist. His parents were both of Italian descent. His mother managed a small hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where Richard and his family resided.
He began his career when he was eleven years old, playing the dimmer half of two youngsters called Herman and Sam in the Los Angeles radio show “Boy Scout Jamboree”. He stayed with the series on and off for seventeen years, doing hundreds of other radio shows in between, including voicing Ougy Pringle in “A Date with Judy” (1946). During this time, he graduated from high school with letters in track and basketball, and later enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he majored in Theater Arts.
He was cast as Walter Denton in the radio show “Our Miss Brooks” and stayed in the part when the show moved from radio to television (Our Miss Brooks (1952)). The role called for a gangly, awkward, cracked-voice adolescent. Crenna was a tall, graceful man with a rich voice, yet his acting skills were such that he was easily able to fulfill the character’s requirements, leading many viewers to believe that he actually was of high school age, when in fact he was 26 years old at the time. Crenna went on to star in another early television series, The Real McCoys (1957), but it was his role as the dedicated state legislator in the short-lived Slattery’s People (1964) that finally established him both as a dramatic actor and a leading man. From that moment on, he was rarely absent from either television or motion pictures. In 1985, Crenna was awarded an Emmy for Best Performance by an Actor for The Rape of Richard Beck (1985). During the 1980s, he also became known for playing Colonel Trautman in the Rambo films (First Blood (1982), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), and Rambo III (1988)). His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is in a prime position, opposite Mann’s Chinese Theatre, two stars down from his Rambo co-star Sylvester Stallone.
Crenna married shortly after his graduation from USC, but the marriage was short-lived. He met and married his last wife in the late 1950s. Richard Crenna died at age 76 of heart failure on January 17, 2003 in Los Angeles, with more than 70 major motion pictures to his credit.
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